Patents March On Despite Pandemic

January 27, 2021

Even during a pandemic, inventors shall invent. What is uncertain is how many of those ideas will eventually make it to fruition. GeekWire reports, “U.S. Patent Rankings: Amazon Moved Up List as Effects from Pandemic on Innovation Still Unknown.” The article points to IFI Claims Patent Services’ annual list of the top 50 patent recipients in the U.S. IFI pulls its data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Writer Taylor Soper summarizes:

“Despite a global pandemic, U.S. patent grants were down less than 1% year-over-year, and patent applications were up nearly 5%. But the effects of the health crisis on innovation progress may not be known for another 18 months due to the long patenting process, according to Mike Baycroft, CEO of IFI CLAIMS Patent Services.”

The article also cites Microsoft’s Peter Lee, who notes the lack of in-person collaboration during 2020 could affect the pace of innovation. IFI reports a few of the fastest-growing technologies appear to be computer systems based on biological models, machine learning, quantum computing, autonomous navigation, and 3D printing. Soper continues,

“IBM continues to dominate U.S. patent rankings; Microsoft is holding steady in the top 10; and Amazon is making a move up the list. IBM had the most patent grants in 2020 with 9,130, followed by Samsung Electronics, Canon, Microsoft, and Intel. Apple ranked No. 8, while Amazon moved up four spots to No. 11, even though its 2020 grants dropped 8% from the previous year. Google came in at No. 17 and Facebook was No. 38. Some of Amazon’s eye-catching patent grants last year included a launch system for snapping payloads into the air; drones that pull skiers and surfers; and robots that drop off bunches of items on delivery routes.”

Eye-catching indeed. Amazon famously searches in every direction for its next big buck. We wonder: Is there a direct correlation between number of patents and financial return, or is an increase in patent activity during a time of social stress an indicator of commitment to staking out knowledge claims? And what about that USPTO patent search system? A gem I tell you.

Cynthia Murrell, January 27, 2021

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